Fireworks CS3 Review

Adobe Fireworks CS3 includes significant new features and excellent integration with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Flash, and Bridge.

Pages and Layers
Fireworks’ new Pages panel reflects Adobe’s vision of improving Web design workflow from conception to publication. This panel makes it easy to create working prototypes of Web sites containing multiple pages, hyperlinks, hotspots, and rollover graphics within a single Fireworks file. In addition to designating a master page containing elements that you want to appear on every page, you can use the Pages panel to quickly preview pages.

Another new feature that supports rapid prototyping is the ability to share layers among different pages. For example, if you need to display a particular image on several pages, you can specify those pages by selecting the layer containing the image from the Layers panel and choosing the Share Layer To Pages command. Shared layers are coloured yellow in the Layers panel.

The addition of hierarchical layers, which allow you to organize content in sublayers, provides integration between Fireworks, Illustrator, and Photoshop. Fireworks maintains the layer hierarchy in files imported from Photoshop and Illustrator, as opposed to previous versions that flattened multilayered files into a single layer.

The new Create Slideshow command is also a welcome addition. This command and the included new templates make it easy for non-programmers to create professional-looking Flash and non-Flash slide shows. The Create Slideshow dialog box provides several subpanels that allow you to customize attributes for albums and slide shows. For example, there are six built-in slide-show templates; five of them require Flash Player. The sixth template is based on Adobe’s Spry framework, which creates an XML-based photo gallery and doesn’t require additional plug-ins for viewing the slide show. Fireworks CS3’s ability to quickly compile and publish a slide show is impressive. Once you’ve saved your slide show, you can view it locally on your computer or upload the files to your server for viewing.

Better Scaling
The addition of 9-slice (or intelligent) scaling solves the problem of distortion when scaling an object. It lets you specify which parts of a bitmap or vector symbol you want to scale and which parts you want to preserve. And scaling is preserved when you copy and paste a symbol from Fireworks CS3 into Flash CS3. For example, if you copy a symbol containing a rectangle with rounded corners and 9-slice scaling is activated, you can paste the symbol in Flash and scale the symbol up or down without distorting the corners.

You can now select an image and use the Copy command in Fireworks and the Paste command in Dreamweaver to copy an image to a Web page. The Paste command in Dreamweaver launches its Image Preview dialog box, which walks you through optimizing and saving the image to your Dreamweaver site. Once you’ve saved the image, it automatically appears in the Web page. This copy and paste method is more efficient than in previous versions of the software.

The new Common Library feature provides a means for creating and storing symbols—including button, graphic, and animation symbols—, which you can add to any image in Fireworks CS3. The program ships with a variety of common and rich symbols that are suitable for use in mockups, applications, and Web sites. Rich symbols contain editable properties and attributes that you can change through the Symbol Properties panel. You can also create your own rich symbols, complete with editable properties, using the Create Symbol Script command. The command launches a dialog box that allows you to create a JavaScript file that controls a symbol’s editable properties and attributes, even if you don’t know JavaScript.

More Creative Flexibility
New creative enhancements in Fireworks CS3 include a Colour Palette for blending custom colours and the addition of seven Photoshop blend modes. The new Photoshop Live Effects dialog box allows designers to add and edit Photoshop effects within Fireworks. However, Fireworks doesn’t allow you to control all of the options that are available in Photoshop. Unfortunately, Eye Candy 4000 LE and Alien Skin Splat LE filters are no longer included in Fireworks CS3.

Another creative improvement in Fireworks is the Path panel, which contains updated tools for editing vector graphics. The Extrude Paths tool, while not as powerful as Illustrator’s Extrude filter, is a welcome addition for creating simple 3-D objects.

Needs Improvement
Importing or opening Illustrator or Photoshop files in Fireworks CS3 isn’t perfect. For example, Fireworks will convert a 16-bit RGB Photoshop file to a single layer bitmap rather than maintaining its hierarchical layers. Opening and resaving the file as an 8-bit RGB Photoshop image before importing or opening it in Fireworks will prevent this unwanted conversion. Hopefully, this issue will be addressed in future updates. Adobe acknowledges this and other integration problems between Photoshop and Illustrator files and Fireworks CS3, and provides suggestions for improving performance on its Web site in TechNotes kb401026 (http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/knowledgebase/index.cfm?id=kb401026) and kb401027 (http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/knowledgebase/index.cfm?id=kb401027), respectively.

OUR VERDICT

The release of Fireworks CS3 is the most ambitious upgrade of this program since its inception. The new Pages panel, improved integration with other Adobe CS3 products, and the addition of intelligent scaling are reasons enough to upgrade to Fireworks CS3. The ability to create slide shows, create custom colours, and use Photoshop effects are just icing on the cake. If you design and develop Web sites, you can’t afford not to use Fireworks CS3.

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